132 Preferential association of PBDEs and PAHs with mineral particles vs. dissolved organic carbon: Implications for groundwater contamination at e-waste sites

Yang C., Duan L., Wang J., Jiang C., Zhang T., Chen W. (2025) Journal of Environmental Sciences (China), 150, pp. 288 – 296,  DOI: 10.1016/j.jes.2024.03.007

ABSTRACT: Polybrominated biphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are commonly detected contaminants at e-waste recycling sites. Against the conventional wisdom that PBDEs and PAHs are highly immobile and persist primarily in shallow surface soils, increasing evidence shows that these compounds can leach into the groundwater. Herein, we compare the leachabilities of PBDEs vs. PAHs from contaminated soils collected at an e-waste recycling site in Tianjin, China. Considerable amounts of BDE-209 (0.3–2 ng/L) and phenanthrene (42–106 ng/L), the most abundant PBDE and PAH at the site, are detected in the effluents of columns packed with contaminated soils, with the specific concentrations varying with hydrodynamic and solution chemistry conditions. Interestingly, the leaching potential of BDE-209 appears to be closely related to the release of colloidal mineral particles, whereas the leachability of phenanthrene correlates well with the concentration of dissolved organic carbon in the effluent, but showing essentially no correlation with the concentration of mineral particles. The surprisingly different trends of the leachability observed between BDE-209 and phenanthrene is counterintuitive, as PBDEs and PAHs often co-exist at e-waste recycling sites (particularly at the sites wherein incineration is being practiced) and share many similarities in terms of physicochemical properties. One possible explanation is that due to its extremely low solubility, BDE-209 predominantly exists in free-phase (i.e., as solid (nano)particles), whereas the more soluble phenanthrene is mainly sorbed to soil organic matter. Findings in this study underscore the need to better understand the mobility of highly hydrophobic organic contaminants at contaminated sites for improved risk management.

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